by Nino Sergi
We have witnessed with horror the barbarity of the “biggest massacre of civilians in a single day since the Holocaust”, as Israeli President Isaac Herzog called it. An act of jihadist terrorism that did not stop at children and babies. Impressive numbers of dead, wounded, prisoners taken like cattle and potential victims. This terrorism has nothing to do with the aspirations and the right of the Palestinians to a homeland with its own territory; it is merely an instrument of religious fanaticism and of Hamas’s hatred of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel, whose existence it continues to deny, even contributing to the jihadist plan to destabilise the region in order to attack and destroy it.
Since 7 October, we are all Israelis. And rightly so. In the face of the bombings, the aggression and the crimes of Hamas against defenceless civilians, the condemnation, the sorrow and the sympathy are unanimous and convinced. And it is to be hoped that the prisoners will be treated humanely and that negotiations for their release will be swift and successful. The predictable Israeli response to Hamas and the Jihadist forces has been announced, both in response to the brutal aggression and to prevent the launching of new rockets.
It is to be hoped that this response will not be blind, indiscriminate and disproportionate, and that it will not target the civilian population of Gaza. For two decades, some 2.5 million people, more than a third of them children and adolescents, have been confined, overcrowded, malnourished, in very poor economic, social and housing conditions, in a kind of refugee camp. A semi-desert strip, 40 kilometres long and between 5 and 10 kilometres wide, from which it is impossible to leave. The inhabitants of Gaza are hostages and victims of Hamas: they must not become hostages and victims of Israel.
When, however, as is already the case, it is the entire population that is affected by the bombing, the cutting off of food, water and electricity and the lack of means of evacuation, then we are all Palestinians, for the same reasons and with the same sorrow and affection that we feel for the Israeli population. There are already too many dead, injured, destroyed and suffering on both sides. Let us not use hatred to fight hatred: It could lead to a regional escalation of a conflict whose outcome and consequences are unpredictable, even for Europe.
We should have learned that desperation fuels jihadism. If Hamas must be severely condemned and punished, it must not be the Palestinian people, either by killing them indiscriminately or by forcing them to flee into the unknown and, above all, into new despair. Preventing a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is therefore essential. Providing food, water, electricity, medical care, protection for the most vulnerable and education also means reducing Hamas’s excessive power and its blackmailing domination over the different strata of the population. The siege should therefore be lifted immediately and the international humanitarian organisations present in Gaza, in direct contact with the most vulnerable communities, should continue to be supported. Let the violence of the response be carefully measured and let diplomatic action be encouraged, wherever it comes from.
Both peoples have been betrayed by politics. Both in Israel, despite the value of its democracy, and in the Palestinian territories, dominated by corruption, ignorance and laziness in the West Bank and by jihadist fanaticism in Gaza. The two communities, Israeli and Palestinian, continue to destroy each other. Both their institutions have much to reproach themselves for. There is, however, a strong sense of humiliation, loss of human dignity and lack of hope in the Palestinian community: for too long they have been humiliated, disproportionately deprived of their own territories for the benefit of Israeli settlers who occupy them with illegal settlements condemned by the UN. These are occupations whose injustice has unfortunately been tolerated by European Countries and the West. The right of Israel and its democratic institutions to exist in peace can only be fully realised if feelings of hatred and revenge and the daily use of weapons do not prevail on its borders. Its security can never depend solely on its military strength and superiority.
Israelis and Palestinians have been calling on the international community for 75 years. In so many decades, they have not found a way to live together in peace. Wrongdoings and reasons have been intertwined. The assassination of Rabin in 1995 put an end to the peace process signed two years earlier in Oslo after long negotiations. And since then, so many opportunities have been wasted, with the refusal to recognise each other’s rights and mutual justice, and with so many external influences based on selfish national advantages and power interests. The comfortable path of short-sightedness, forgetfulness, political opportunism and expediency has often been preferred. But we should be aware of the reasons and mistakes of both sides, without prejudice, simplification or falsification. International politics should regain the dignity it deserves.
The Palestinian question cannot be left in the hands of political fanaticism, extremism and terrorism. It must once again become a priority for the international community, and in particular for the West, which considers the dignity and freedom of every human being, the rule of law, democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights to be fundamental pillars. The diplomacy of the Abraham Agreement must be strengthened in order to define a framework for peaceful relations in the region. But we need a broader, firmer and more definitive international framework, which also requires a strong commitment and a guarantee from the West, to which Israel refers and which remains a guarantee for the entire region: without demonstrating superiority, but driven by our values.
We must dare, imagine and want a different future, despite all the evidence to the contrary: a lasting, agreed, guaranteed and internationally supported solution. It seems impossible today, but everyone knows that it is the way forward. Wars, the use of force, repression, never solve the problems they seek to put an end to; they only postpone them until they reappear in other times and in other forms, often worse. They always demonstrate the defeat of politics, sometimes through underestimation, distraction, inability, arrogance and wrong choices. Thirty years of armed conflicts, in which I have often found myself at the centre, trying to protect defenceless civilian victims, have confirmed this.
To learn more, read our Israel/Palestine conflict factsheet
On the cover photo, An image inspired by one of Banksy’s symbolic works © Artem Rumyantsev/Shutterstock.com